It must be hard to be premier in a time of cutbacks. You probably wouldn’t be caught dead slurping a low-fat frappucino, lest someone ask why you didn’t stick to regular coffee.
It may not be quite that petty, but this week’s mini-tempest over Confederation Building renovations does seem a little over the top.
On Thursday, The Telegram reported how rumours are rampant that Kathy Dunderdale’s suite of eighth-floor offices are getting an expensive facelift.
And the opposition Liberals have jumped on the bandwagon, calling it a double standard when the government is talking about 10-figure deficits.
Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons says he wants more information.
“The premier is preaching fiscal prudence, but at the same time doesn’t apply it to herself.”
It’s an easy game to play. When a government is talking about austerity, every little expenditure comes under scrutiny. And renovations are pretty expensive.
From a purely political point of view, Dunderdale and her ministers would be expected to at least appear frugal. And they don’t always do a good job. Parsons points to the ongoing issue of high-paying senior appointments being announced almost every week.
The game of playing the prudent role model is as old as the hills. There are plenty of stories from the private sector of CEOs flying coach with their senior staff and dragging them off to cheap restaurants. If the boss is doing it, it’s hard to argue.
The government, however, says the uproar over renos is nonsense. And its arguments are pretty credible.
Transportation and Works Minister Paul Davis said the work being done on the eighth floor isn’t “cosmetic,” but necessary. Contractors have been fixing leaky windows in the building for years, and the tower renovations are the last to be done.
In fact, the premier says her office is plagued by leaks when it rains.
“(You) have to manoeuvre your way through buckets because there’s rain coming in everywhere,” she said Wednesday.
Davis said the electrical wiring is old and the ventilation system needs upgrading. It will all be repaired while work continues outside on the windows.
When asked Wednesday, Davis would not reveal any costs associated with the work, saying the bills are not all in. We’ll assume this open and transparent government will follow through once the final numbers are known.
At any rate, renovations planned long in advance — to keep the legislature from falling apart — are hardly a fair target for criticism.
It’s fair to say if the Opposition’s roof was leaking, they’d be singing a different tune.